University of Newcastle law students have been warned that they will need to acquire more skills than their predecessors needed, during a visit by world-renowned legal thought-leader Mitch Kowalski.

Visiting from his native Canada, speaking to faculty and students today, Kowalski said young lawyers and law students will increasingly need to be able to quickly tell the difference between two different types of legal practices if they are to future-proof their own careers.

"We are well and truly in an era where traditional law firms are facing extinction – they're a dying breed stuck in their old ways versus a NewLaw practice," Kowalski said.

"Part of the problem is that many firms are over-invested in their current business model and this causes them to miss, and even ignore, the needs and desires of their clients. But at some point, there will be a reckoning."

Kowalski said many law firms today are not only failing to address the needs of their clients, they are failing to address the needs of their own millennial talent – despite already having the tools to do both.

A former partner at a major international law firm, and a Fastcase 50 Global Legal Innovator, Kowalski told students that having a sustainable legal career will be heavily influenced by the type of firms they choose to work with in the first few years of their legal career.

Newcastle born and raised legal innovator Nathan Hepple said his businesses, HBA Legal and Pillion which is based in Newcastle, were founded on NewLaw principles.

"Our delivery service model is unique in Australia and clients love it because we work as a team to devise a path to get to an outcome, rather than approach it old style: day by day, racking up fees with no clear direction on the end game for the client," Hepple said.

"It seems crazy to me that I can stand here and say our model is unique – it shouldn't be unique – more firms need to be adapting and evolving.

"I actually see it as my obligation to the next generation of young lawyers coming through the pipeline to heed these warnings and take this stuff seriously."

Kowalski added: "Sadly, many partners of traditional law firms who are nearing retirement have taken the short-sighted, and some might say, selfish attitude that the industry reformation will happen after they're out of the profession. As a consequence, it's easier and more profitable for them personally to put their heads in the sand."

"Let me ask you: how many law firm 'innovation' announcements are simply good public relations, and how many are real, actionable, and sustainable? The clatter of information about law firm innovation has become overwhelming and confusing," Kowalski said.

"Just as Generals talk about the 'fog of war,' the 'fog of legal innovation' has settled thickly over the legal services industry – all with very little change to it. Students need to be wary and pick their way carefully through the fog." Mr Kowalski has been in NSW this week as a guest of HBA Legal, having already spent time in Perth earlier this month with Curtin University and the University of Western Australia.

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